Tips #1-25 | Tips #51-75 | Tips #76-107
26. American dollars are widely accepted in cruise ports
Don’t worry if you don’t have pesos, or any other local currency. In Caribbean cruise ports American dollars are widely accepted (and often preferred). That’s a huge help for cruise passengers who don’t have to worry about having different currencies as they go from port to port. Credit cards are also accepted in many places, but we suggest cash for most transactions.
27. Mention a special occasion to (maybe) get free stuff
Birthday? Anniversary? Honeymoon? Be sure to mention to any cruise line employee why you are there if it’s a special occasion. There’s no guarantee, but it’s not unheard of to be surprised by a bottle of champagne and some strawberries in your cabin for free. The cruise lines know that a little perk like this doesn’t cost a lot but can make your loyal for life.
28. Credit cards are accepted in ports, but call your company first
Yes, credit cards are accepted, especially in the more touristy areas of port cities. It’s still preferable to pay for most things in cash for security purposes.
That said, if you do decide to use your card, be sure call your credit card company first. It may alert their system to fraud to see a card used in three different ports in three days, leading them to put a freeze on your account if they don’t know what’s going on.
29. Beaches are free ways to enjoy the day
If you don’t want to spend money on shore excursions, that’s understandable. A free way to enjoy the port cities and save some money is to simply head to the beach.
Every port will have some exclusive beach clubs with hammocks and drink service, but they usually charge an entry fee. Instead, do some research (or ask a taxi) on where the free beaches are. You might have to deal with more people, but nothing beats having a day on a world-class beach without having to spend a dime.
30. Avoid ATM fees at the casino with this trick
ATM fees to get cash out can be expensive on the cruise ship. If you want to gamble but don’t have the cash on hand, you can use a little trick to avoid paying exorbitant ATM fees. Cruise lines will let you charge your onboard account to get money for chips or slot machines. Just be careful as it’s an easy way to spend a little too much!
31. Public transportation gets you to the port for cheap
It’s not available in every port, but if you are sailing out of a major city (specifically Miami or Seattle), then you can get to the port for less money by using public transportation. In fact, it can cost as little as $3 per person!
In Miami you can take the Orange Line train from the airport over to the Coral Way Trolley, which drops at the port (directions here). In Seattle, the Link Light Rail lets out just blocks from Pier 66 (directions here). If you don’t want to pay for an expensive taxi or Uber, keep this in mind.
Packing Tips For Your Cruise
Not sure what you need to pack? These tips and secrets will have you packing like a pro in no time.
32. You can pack way more than you can on a plane
Are you the sort of person that packs for a month when you’re only going for a week? Good news is the cruise lines don’t have near as stringent baggage policies as the airlines. There are no baggage fees, or real restrictions on how much you can bring (within reason). You also don’t have to worry about the 3-ounce liquid rule. It makes it much easier to pack and much less stressful.
That said, we’d suggest still packing light. Remember, the more you pack, the more you have to carry with you, and the more space it takes up in your cabin.
33. Leave the hair dryer at home
Hair dryers are standard equipment in all cabins, just like in a hotel room. That means you can leave yours at home and save some space in your bags. The only time you’ll need to bring your own is if you have a special type of hair dryer that you just have to use. The in-cabin hair dryer is one of those small hotel-style ones that isn’t terribly powerful, but is plenty for a week at sea.
34. Pack a nightlight for the cabin
Staying in an interior room? That means you have no windows… and no natural light. Once you shut the door and turn out the lights, it’s pitch black. Bring along a nightlight to plug in to provide some light for the room.
Your shins will appreciate the extra light when you have to stumble into an unfamiliar bathroom in the middle of the night.
35. Dry bags are always a good idea if you plan to hit the beach
While you can use Ziploc bags, we like the idea of having a watertight pouch or bag when you head to the beach. They are the perfect size for a phone, cash, and keycards. Best of all, they can snap onto your waistband so that you can carry your things with you in the water while taking a dip — and not leave them vulnerable on the beach. Read our review of our favorite dry bag here.
36. Pack a handful of Ziploc bags. They have a million uses
Ziploc bags have to be the most useful item you can pack. Want to keep things dry while at the pool? Put it in a Ziploc. Want to keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones? Put them in a Ziploc. Have a bunch of small items that you’re packing and would like to keep together? Or maybe you want to snag a snack for later from the buffet? Put it all in a Ziploc.
Always pack a few baggies with you on your trip, and you’ll be sure to find a use for them.
37. Remember to pack a fan for the room
One thing you might not think to bring is a small portable fan for your cabin room. There isn’t much airflow in the cabins, so if you are the type that always need a breeze to be comfy, then you’ll hate sitting still in the room. As well, we like the white noise that a fan provides to drown out sounds like people talking in the hall while we are trying to sleep.
38. Make a copy of your passport to carry instead of the real thing
The best place to keep your passport is in your in-room safe. If you want some ID while your are in your port city, make a copy of your ID page of the passport and carry it with you, along with a driver’s license. This will make due until you can get back to the cabin.
Another smart idea is to take a scan of your passport and email it to yourself. This way no matter where you go, you will have a digital copy that you can access from anywhere with Internet.
39. Always pack cool weather gear, too
Swimsuit? Check. Suntan lotion? Check. A jacket? What?!
Yes, even if you are headed to the tropics you should always pack a few items of warm clothing. If a rainstorm hits in the evening, it can get chilly on a fast-moving cruise ship with the wind whipping around. Having something with long sleeves and a hood can be a lifesaver.
40. Towel clips are worth their weight in gold
Before a cruise, we never would have thought twice about towel clips. You never really think about how breezy it gets on a cruise. With the ship in motion, there is a constant wind on the decks. That makes trying to keep your towel from whipping around an exercise in frustration. You can lay trying to relax, but the corners of your towel will be constantly flapping.
Luckily, for just a few bucks you can get some clips that will keep your towel on your lounger.
Food & Drink Tips For Your Cruise
Eating and drinking on a cruise are a big deal. Want to get your fill? Check out the tips below.
41. Alcohol can be brought on board, with strict limitations
The vast majority of cruise lines don’t let you bring on beer or hard liquor. Nearly all of them, however, will let you bring on bottles of champagne or wine. Check with your cruise line, but the rule is usually either one bottle per cabin or one bottle per adult passenger.
One or two bottles of wine likely won’t last your entire cruise, but considering the price of drinks onboard, anything you can bring saves you a lot of cash.
42. You can bring on non-alcoholic drinks (some lines)
Want to save $30-$40? Many cruise lines — including Carnival and Royal Caribbean — allow you to bring on non-alcoholic beverages. The rule is usually 12 drinks per person. So if you can’t live without your Diet Coke or want to have some Gatorade for the kids, bring it with you.
The only thing to know is that Carnival requires you to bring cans or cartons. No bottles are allowed.
Considering that a non-alcoholic drink can cost $3-4 bucks each on a cruise ship (plus gratuity!) you can save a big chunk of change by bringing your own.
43. You can order a second (or third or fourth) entrée at no charge
Can’t choose between the chicken or the fish? Don’t stress out. Order both. Or order two plates on lobster night. Most people don’t realize it, but you can order as much as you want in the main dining room (or other restaurants).
Cruise lines know that people are on vacation to let loose and enjoy themselves. They understand that people love to eat on their trip, so they are usually happy to accommodate your request. (Note: Carnival has implemented a nominal $5 fee for a third entrée.)
44. Make any reservations early for the best times
If dining at a specialty restaurant or hitting the spa, you might need a reservation. If so, don’t wait until you are on the ship to make reservations at restaurants or the spa. The best times will fill up quickly, leaving you with fewer options. Every cruise line will allow you to make reservations online (or by phone) weeks or months in advance of your cruise.
As soon as you know that you will want to dine at a restaurant or get a spa treatment, make your reservations!
45. Too late to get a reservation on the ship? Head to that restaurant anyway
Didn’t realize you needed a reservation or the spot you wanted was already filled? Don’t worry… you might still be able to get in.
You can head down to the restaurant and see if there is any room available. Sometimes people make reservations and then forget about them, freeing up space. Your chances are best if you go early or late — instead of during peak hours.
There’s no guarantee you’ll get a space, but it does happen.
46. Hungry? Get a whole pizza for free
Nearly every ship you sail on will have a place to get free pizza by the slice. But what if you’re really hungry? You can often order up a whole pie, free of charge. This way you get exactly what you want instead of having to eat a slice of whatever is available. It may take a few minutes to get your pie made, so be a little patient.
47. Breakfast and lunch are also served in the main dining room
Everyone knows about dinner in the main dining room… but they usually eat the buffet for lunch and breakfast. If you want something higher quality, head to the main dining room instead of the buffet. They serve both meals, but with much smaller crowds. Best of all, the food is usually better as well, since it’s made fresh.
48. Don’t think the “drink of the day” is a deal
Each day the bar will have a different drink of the day special. But just because they highlight it doesn’t mean it’s a deal. Often the cruise lines just call it the “drink of the day” to draw attention to an option to get you to buy it, but don’t cut the price. Other times it might just be $1-$2 off the regular price.
49. Have dietary restrictions? Cruise lines can cover you
Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Food allergies? No matter your dietary restrictions, the cruise lines can accommodate. Don’t wait until you are on the ship to tell the cruise line about your diet restrictions. Call as soon as you book and speak to a customer service agent. They can update you on food options and also make a note on your account to notify the crew.
50. You can always order your favorite dish, even if it’s not on the menu.
Wasn’t the chicken cordon bleu fantastic last night? Wish you could get it tonight? You usually can. Even if you don’t see an entrée on the menu in the dining room, don’t think you can’t get it. Simply ask your waiter if it’s available. The worst they can say is no.
There are even more cruise tips… keep reading:
Tips #1-25 | Tips #51-75 | Tips #76-107
I have read a ton of really good ideas for cruising, but I have yet to see anything about whether to bring an umbrella
I’d say no. It’s bulky and often only needed for a few minutes where you can just go inside on the ship or duck under cover in port. Instead, a rain jacket is a good idea as it’s more versatile.
Holy Moly, yes take an umbrella. Our last cruise this past November 2022 rained EVERY day of the 14 days of this Caribbean cruise. The ONLY saving thing about this soggy cruise was a blessing that we stayed in the Haven and an umbrella was furnished in the room. I felt sorry for all the other passengers who bought ponchos or simply were soaked. Sometimes a problem for space but invest in a small compact umbrella -you will be happy you did!
I didn’t see a comment about doing laundry. It’s true that laundry soap is available in dispensers as well as dryer sheets, but if you bring your own it’s certainly cheaper and you can bring the brand you like. Also if you are planning to wash your own clothes, plan to use the laundry room when there is publicized social activity, and you won’t be standing in line to use the machines since many won’t want to miss the activity and the machines won’t be in use.
Just FYI most ports have shuttles from docks to airports and returns. I Uber to airport take shuttle to docks and reverse on return. No parking fees and I’ve found you can do the round trip Uber and all for around a hundred dollars (sometimes less than that). I’ve also found booking specialty activities much as mixology class are better to book as far in advance as possible…..they fill up fast. Also you didn’t mention about tipping for you cabin stewards, dinner waiters….etc. I always take cash for that. Happy Sailing….
Hello, I cruise all the time and can never get an answer as to why it’s hit or miss on the pool being warm or cold. I always complain if it’s cold and always get the same answer, ( corporate makes the decision. ) If a cruise ship wants people to enjoy themselves then why prevent them from having a great time swimming at the pool. I don’t even need to put my foot in the pool. If there are people in the pool then it’s warm… if it’s cold nobody is in it. Can anyone explain?
Not sure about the heating of pools… but if there are a bunch of people in the pool and it’s warm, then you may not want to think too much about where that warmth is coming from!
I find it handy to bring plastic foldable over the door hanger for bathroom which has many pockets. You can put all the bathroom essentials to avoid a clutter on bathroom counter.
Another tip is bring towel clips for lounge chairs so the towels stay in place.
It’s interesting that cruise lines will give cheap fares to people during the off-seasons. My fiance and I want to go on a cruise but we don’t make a lot of money. I’ll have to tell her that if we go during November or something close to that.
Just remember, if you are cruising in the Caribbean, that’s still hurricane season.
I have a small round essential oil diffuser that I use with lavender oil in my stateroom…so relaxing as the boat rocks you to sleep each night!
A roll of Grab Wrap (like saran makes) is so nice to have to keep late night desserts fresh in the cabin fridge for morning.
They want to sell me packages? Going from Quebec to Boston on Norwegian. Any visit suggestions?
Thank Youall !
Always bring a list of what you need too.
Duct Tape has so many uses.. Highlighter to mark the Daily Programs too.
Now with those dang Electric Swithes when you leave your cabin.. Bring an Old Credit Card to insert and Duct tAPE THAT TOO..
We always bring water shoes when we cruise. Some excursions require them & they’re also a less slippery alternative to flip-flops on the pool deck.
Any rules about decorating your room door?
Not that we’ve seen. We would suggest using only non-marking items — so tape, not glue — to stick things to the door.
I have read elsewhere that tape is forbidden on the door. It makes a mess for the staff to clean up. I can understand that some tapes are non-marking, but you can get almost anything with magnets, or just glue magnets to almost anything.
If active military or a vet and have ID ask about discount. Our parking was free in Galveston for a 7 night cruise.
Should you book your next cruise when you are on board?
Our opinion is that it’s a decent idea, but it’s not like you’ll get amazing deals that aren’t anywhere else. They often give you onboard credit to book. Prices are around what you’ll find online.
Many cruise companies offer matching deposits on future cruises when booked on board. I believe Norwegian matches up to $250.
Yes you can get a good deal when you book whilst on board, we did, got $250 for the next cruise which we are going to use on our next cruise., used it for the deposit.
You really shouldn’t put any unofficial stamps in your passport. It even says in the fine print in the back that any unofficial markings inside could invalidate your passport. It most likely won’t ever happen unless you end up with an unforgiving immigration officer and then you’re stuck! I got off with a warning once and thankfully my passport has been renewed since then! Don’t risk it!
Thank you for the information as it is very helpful as well as those that offered others. We are going on our first cruise ever right after Thanksgiving. It is our 25th anniversary and we are looking forward to it.
Glad you found it useful. Congratulations on the anniversary! Twenty-five years is amazing
One of the worse things you can suggest and encourage is bringing fruit and food ashore. When you come into the USA, fruit and certain foods are NOT allowed to be brought into the country. Respect this when traveling to other countries. It’s the LAW there too!
Australia has very strict biosecurity regulations. No food of any type will be allowed in to the country. There will be a quarantine inspection at each port and sometimes even sniffer dogs will be present. This will happen at each port of call in Australia, even if the cruise visits only Australian ports.
The last time I cruised, our cruise critic group had a meet & greet, a gift exchange, a slot game and a special farewell luncheon. If someone from the group gets together with the hospitality people, they can arrange snacks, special meals and gifts for your groups. This was on the Celebrity and it was fantastic.
#95. EXTREAMLY BAD IDEA! A passport can be voided if random non official stamps are in it. Only official government immigration stamps are allowed
That’s “technically” true, however, we’ve never heard of it happening. We’ve also personally had these stamps in our passport and never had any questions about them.
if you are in the Port and you ask the Port Athorites where to get your passport stamped then it is not a “voidable” stamp. Because it is issued by that countries government. Those stamps would be part of the Visa Program if the passport was NOT from the US, I.E. if the Passport was Chinese the cruises might have needed a Visa in the first place and that stamp would end up being part of the Visa.
This were great tips!! I consider myself as an experienced cruiser and I learned a lot.
It’s good to know that breakfast and lunch are also served in the main dining room, rather than just the buffet. My wife and I are hoping that we can go on a sunset cruise tour for our anniversary. We’ll have to check out the main dining room for food, as well as seeing if there are any secret decks if we can make it on a cruise.
Yes I did this on my last cruise. I knew but never took advantage of it.
Great tips people!
Going on our first cruise in December (Princess cruises. Miami to LA. Via Panama Canal)
Any other advice/tips very welcome!
OOPS~ I guess I’d still be paying for gas… Still better than $20 / day to park on a 7 to 10 day cruise, or leaving my car in some dirt lot for even $8 /day.
Leaving your car at your home airport for a week or more can run up a pretty big bill. If you have the time, consider renting a car from the airport the day before your flight. When you return it to the airport just take the auto rental shuttle to the terminal. Do the opposite when you return home. We are Costco members and can rent a near new (more likely to make it to the airport or it will be replaced if it breaks down) for $25 to $30 per day.
Great Idea! We’re in FL and to drive and park at any other port besides Port Canaveral (we’re 20 minutes away from that, and can always find someone to drop us off) will cost at least another $160. Gas, parking fees, etc. We can rent a car here ($35) drive it to the port and turn it in. Do the same for the trip home. We’ve just saved $90 bucks, and don’t have to worry about leaving the car in some lot, or putting up to an extra 400 miles on it! (if we go to Miami round trip that is!)
Excellent post that was concise and highly informative. Just the recommendation to look for off port parking saved me over $100 dollars. The shuttle to the ship only took us 10 minutes and we were dropped off closer to the ship than the people that parked in the ship parking area.
Awesome article! I highly appreciate your effort!
Thank you for the great article, you did an incredible job 🙂
Great post! I will spread the word.
Bring a hole punch for your ship card to put on a lanyard–some ships have them in the casino-just ask them to punch a hole and give you the lanyard–makes it easy to carry card around neck.
#53 gives bad advice. It links to a power cable that is expressly forbidden as it has a built in surge protector.
Chris, great catch! We’ve updated the section to note that surge protectors are no longer allowed on ships.
They tell you to bring one without a power surge in it
These were all very helpful tips, many of which we have used on our past cruises. Another tip is: The walls in the cabins are metal, even if they don’t look like it. We take magnetic clips and hooks and use them to hold all the papers that are left in the cabin mailbox as well as to hang things that might need to dry. It helps keep the cabin organized.
Rose, great tip! Love it.